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Subject: 12/07/90 - The National Midnight Star #123  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 123

                 Friday, 7 December 1990
Today's Topics:
                Rolling Stone Album Reviews

Subject: Rolling Stone Album Reviews

[ Thanks to the combination of Jimmy Lang/Meg Jahnke for these
  transcriptions.                                       :rush-mgr ]

*	   Rolling Stone Magazine Album Reviews.		*

Hemispheres - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - March 22, 1979

   Fans will doubtless find _Hemispheres_ another good, solid Rush
album. And it's time to apprise the nonfans as well, because this
power trio uniquely bridges the gap between heavy metal and sterile
technology (sort of where Blue Oyster Cult used to work before going
soft rock). The spine of Rush's sound is Alex Lifeson's broad,
ringing guitar playing. Drummer Neil Peart is fluent at a large
double kit, also adding colorations on various bells and blocks.
Geddy Lee plays bass figures that fall just short of melodies, but
his extremely high voice -- either a triumphant cry or a grating
yowl -- is still a bone of contention. Though Lee can control his
singing, he's often unnecessarily strident.
   The pick to click here is "Circumstances," whose chorus reworks
the tidal stresses of "Something for Nothing" in sprung rhythm and
whose lyrics are the most personable, least didactic on the record.
"Hemispheres," the obligatory space opera, was meant to expand on
"Cygnus X-1" from _A Farewell to Kings_, but the musical and
thematic references are only tangential; on the new LP, the words
belabor the bejesus out of the heart/mind dichotomy and skimp on the
science fiction. "The Trees" is an attractively droll political
fable with a gorgeously rendered classical-guitar intro (one of
Lifeson's arcane strengths). But the real new ground is Rush's first
stab at an instrumental: "La Villa Strangiato" boasts taut riffing,
acute tempos, flawless phrasing, the discipline to sound effortless
and enough energy to flow in torrents.
   Overall, especially in "La Villa Strangiato," Lifeson, Peart and
Lee prove themselves masters of every power-trio convention. In
fact, these guys have the chops and drive to break out of the
largely artificial bounds of the format, and they constantly
threaten to do so but never quite manage. If they don't succeed
soon, complacency may set in. Already the lyrics are apporoaching a
singsong regularity of meter, and the melodies are beginning to lean
too heavily on mere chording. I affirm this band's ability to rock
out, but I really want to give Rush a hard shove in the direction
it's already heading.

						-- Michael Bloom


Permanent Waves - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - May 1, 1980

   It's easy to criticize what you don't understand, which at least
partly explains why Canadain power trio Rush have suffered so much
at the hands of rock journalists since the band's debut album in
1974. Critics find bassist-lead singer Geddy Lee's stratospheric
wails and drummer Neil Peart's lyrical excursions into philosophy,
science fiction and fantasy easy targets, and usually dismiss Rush
as a head-banger's Genesis.
   True, earlier LPs like _Fly By Night_ and _Caress of Steel_ bear
the scars of the group's naivete. but now, within the scope of six
short (for them) songs, Rush demonstrate a maturity that even their
detractors may have to admire. On _Permanent Waves_, these guys
appropriate the crippling riffs and sonic blasts of heavy metal,
model their tortuous instrumental changes on Yes-style British art
rock and fuse the two together with lyrics that -- despite their
occasional overreach -- are still several refreshing steps above the
moronic machismo and half-baked mysticism of many hard-rock airs.
   Fortunately, Rush lead off with their trump card, a frantic,
time-changing romp called "The Spirit of Radio." Not only is the
sentiment right on, but the tune is packed with insistent hooks,
including a playful reggae break that suddenly explodes into a Led
Zeppelin-lik bash. Guitarist Alex Lifeson makes the most of these
hooks with harmonic inversions and aggressive solo breaks, taking
off in "Freewill" and "Jacob's Ladder" with a theatrical agility
that could give Jimmy Page pause for thought. Other surprises are a
straight-ahead rocker with an artfully segued acoustic chorus
("Entre Nous"), a dramatic Genesis-style ballad ("Different
Strings") and an overall sanding down of the abrasive edges of Geddy
Lee's voice, revealing a far more competent, expressive singer than
his original Robert Plant-like shriek might have suggested.
   Rush's problem has rarely been competence, however. They simply
don't play fashionable music. If they couldn't cut it on their own
terms, that's be different. But this band is among the very best in
its genre. And if the Top Five status of _Permanent Waves_ is any
example, it's a genre wherein critics don't count at all.


Exit...Stage Left - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - February 4, 1982

2 1/2 stars given (out of 5)

   Rush have been unfairly maligned as just another barnstorming
heavy-metal act, fit only to vibrate arena walls. Actually, the
group is a lot more interesting than cock-rockers like Van Halen or
AC/DC, and far less compromised than Journey or Styx. "We didn't
change, everybody else did!" proclaim the liner notes to their
second live set, _Exit...Stage Left_, and, in a way, they're right.
Rush represent the last profitable gasp of high-minded "progressive"
rock, the province of virtuosic, storytelling, philosophizing bands
that attracted huge audiences in the early Seventies.
   Now that Yes have been shaken up, Genesis have gotten hip and
even Kansas are in limbo, Rush have the underground-FM, "oh, wow"-
profound market to themselves. True, Rush are a comedown from the
early Yes they ravage, but at least they never mush out like
Genesis. Their power-trio lineup keeps them hard-edged, despite the
occasional synthesizer whoosh. And they're more single-mindedly
propulsive than their forebears. Rush's ingenuity is channeled into
complicated riffs below triumphant major chords, with Alex Lifeson's
guitar serving largely as reinforcement for Geddy Lee's mammoth bass
tones. Both live and in the studios, Rush's mixes make everything
above the midrange sound like an afterthought -- and that's just as
well. Though Lee's falsetto isn't a shriek anymore, drummer Neil
Peart's lyrics can still irritate. Taking individualism to Ayn
Rand-inspired extremes, Peart's most pessimistic screeds suggest
that in the upcoming apocalypse, every-man-for-himself will turn
into a jump-the-other-guy.
   There's not much propaganda on _Exit...Stage Left_ -- only "The
Trees" (the maples unionize and, in the name of equality, destroy
the taller oaks), "Free Will" (the group is for it) and "Tom Sawyer"
(hardly the fun-loving guy Mark Twain invented). The rest of the
record includes pessimistic fables ("Red Barchetta"), travelogues
("A Passage To Bangkok"), hippie-isms ("The Spirit Of Radio") and
instrumentals ("YYZ" and "La Villa Strangiato," minus its original
subtitle). Except for a singalong in "Closer to the Heart" and a
jokey intro to "Jacob's Ladder," the versions here are virtually
identical to the studio renditions, so Rush fans may find the set
redundant. Others might get a kick out of the big, surging E chords
the band keeps pumping out and perhaps appreciate Peart's fine-tuned
percussion, but one Rush album (preferably _Moving Pictures_) should
be enought for almost anybody.
   Just about everything Rush do can be found, more compactly, in
Yes' "Roundabout," with the remainder in Genesis' "Watcher of the
Skies." Everything except the philosophy -- and stage left is, of
course, to the audiences's far right.

						-- Jon Pareles


Signals - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - October 28, 1982

2 stars given (out of 5)

   On their twelfth album, Rush makes a strong argument for the view
that advanced technology is not necessarily the same thing as
progress. Unfortunately, they do so largely by screwing up. Although
_Signals_ is chockablock with state-of-the-studio gadgetry, ranging
from the requisite banks of synthesizers to the latest in digital
recording and mixing, none of these electronic add-ons enhances the
group's music. If anything, Rush emerges from this jungle of wires
and gizmos sounding duller than ever.
   The band's chief error seems to have been emphasizing
synthesizers at the expense of Alex Lifeson's guitar. Because Rush's
concept of synthesized sound is so narrow -- consisting mainly or
the vague whooshing sounds that are the aural equivalent of dry-ice
fog -- the band tends to sound like it is trapped in wads of lint.
With no edge to work against, Geddy Lee's congested vocals float
through the songs like swamp gas. Ultimately, it's up to drummer Neil
Peart's hyperkinetic thrashing to hold the performances together.
   Ironically, Rush falls into this technological morass on an album
that is otherwise their most poppish yet. By and large, the songs on
_Signals_ are tuneful and unencumbered by the sort of gratuitous
flash that made previous albums seem like clearinghouses for
worn-out art-rock licks. Even so, it's mostly a wasted effort, and
nearly all of Rush's _Signals_ come across as static.

						-- J.D. Considine


Grace Under Pressure - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - June 21, 1984

3 stars given (out of 5)

   This album needs no critical assistance: If you like Rush, you'll
love it; if not, then _Grace Under Pressure_ is unlikely to alter
your assesment of the band as a lumbering metal anachronism.
   For the record, though, Rush has managed to incorporate a number
of modern elements into its sound (note the almost danceable rhythms
in "Afterimage" and "Red Sector A," and the swelling synthesizers
and electropercussion throughout). Geddy Lee, the group's bassist
and vocalist, has also gotten his dog-calling falsetto shriek under
   But these signs of incipient hipness are not what sets young
pulses racing throughout the North American heartland. Rush is a
band with a message. Briefly put, it's "Be free, and don't let the
grown-up world grind you down." Thus, on "The Enemy Within," Lee
sings, "I'm not giving in/To security under pressure/I'm not missing
out/On the promise of adventure." And the hero of drummer-lyricist
Neil Peart's sci-fi allegory, "The Body Electric," is an "android on
the run, seeking freedom."
   The problem, though, is musical. On record, the lack of melody
and any but the most rudimentary harmonic development soon becomes
oppressive. In addition, Alex Lifeson is not a particularly
interesting lead guitarist, and the strictures of the trio format
still result in more splattery drum bashing than you'll ever care to
hear. Rush delivers the goods, all right: strong social statements
enveloped in a massive, pounding sound. But it's old news, and old
music, too.

						-- Kurt Loder


Power Windows - album review

_Rolling Stone_

    While critics routinely dismissed Rush as pretentious operatic
heavy-metal bozos, this indeftigable Canadian trio was actually busy
becoming the Police of power rock. On their recent studio LPs,
leading up to 1984's appropriately titled _Grace Under Pressure_,
they tightened up their sidelong suites and rhythmic abstractions
into balled-up song fists, art-pop blasts of angular, slashing
guitar, spatial keyboards and hyperpercusion, all resolved with
forthright melodic sense.
    "The Big Money," the first hot FM focus track from _Power
Windows_, may be the best of Rush's Cool Wave experiment to date.
Neil Peart whips up a Molotov drum cocktail that is half Stewart
Copeland psycho-ska and half "Blitzkrieg Bop"; from deep within his
Edge-like echo pit, guitarist Alex Lifeson opens fire witha metallic
descending chord sequence that rips through the song's chrome-
finish production like grapeshot. In "Territories," a simple
disco-style pulse becomes a Lifeson-spurred gallop, his Chinese
gutar chater alternating with the telegrahpic synth patterns and
sheet-metal keyboards played by singer-bassist Geddy Lee.
    To most U2 and Simple Minds fans, these may not seem like major
advances. There are moments when _Power Windows_ sounds too much
like the sum of its Eighties inspirations -- that ghostly U2
resonance, the Police-like mesh of multirhythms and ping-pong dub
effects. Yet Rush, no doubt responidng to familiar impulses, revs up
these songs with brute metal force. Lifeson's solo in "Grand
Designs" teeters on white noise, his demon strokes dissolving into
feedback howls and strangled vibrato, while Peart and Lee subdivide
the beat into frenzied algebra.
    This is not a case of old Seventies arena-rock dogs fudging new
tricks. Rush remains faithful to vintage progressive aesthetics but
has accepted the challenge of the postpunk upheaval and made notable
adjustments. "Manhattan Project" is the first song about the A-bomb
that successfullly combines Genesis-like grandeur, real strings and
a breakaway middle a la Siouxsie and the Banshees at full throttle.
Lee has also toned down his keening shriek to a more accessible
tenor; Peart, the group's uncompromising lyricist, has streamlined
his verse to pithy effect.
    None of this is likely to impress the New Wave in crowd, which
is their loss. Because _Power Windows_ may well be the missing link
between Yes and the Sex Pistols.

						-- David Fricke


A Show Of Hands - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - April 20, 1989

1 1/2 stars given (out of 5)

    Although their fans treat the three members of Rush as if they
were the Holy Trinity, the band chose the theme of another threesone
-- the Three Stooges -- as the opening fanfare for its thrid live
set. It's a bit of self-effacement to be found nowhere else on this
    Most of the material on _A Show of Hands_ is from _Power
Windows_ (1985) and _Hold Your Fire_ (1987). Many of the
performances stick closely to the studio versions, even down to
having 'til Tuesday's Aimee Mann repeat her backing-vocal stint for
"Time Stand Still." The sensation of a studio recrding is heightened
by the remarkable sound quality of the recording (even the crowd
recorded well).
    Rush's prodigious chops are proven crowd pleasers, but this
collection is a morass of muscle-bound technique, quasi-profound
lyrics and bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee's shrill screech. Even the
drum solo by the awe-inspiring Neil Peart ("The Rhythm Method"),
complete with obligatory gong crash, is not nearly as good as what
he throws into the regular songs. In spite of (or perhaps because
of) all the pyrotechnics, the music has the emotional emptiness of
bad jazz fusion. "Nothing can survive in a vaccuum," as Lee squeals
in "Turn the Page."
    The last four numbers begin to redeem the album, but it's too
little too late for this seventy-five minute, double-LP endurance

						-- Michael Azerrad


Presto - album review

_Rolling Stone_ - January 25, 1990

3 stars given (out of 5)

    When critic Lionel Trilling said, "Immature artists imitate.
Mature artists steal," he wasn't talking abotu rush, but he might as
well have been. For the past sixteen years, as the group has gone
from mimicking Led Zeppelin and Yes to approximating the Police,
Rush has been too immaturely concerned with originality to just go
ahead and rip off a riff or two from the greats. Consequently, there
has always been something mising from thte band's immaculately
played techno metal. The band members admitted as much on "Mission,"
a song from their last studio LP, _Hold Your Fire_: "I hear their
passionate music/Read the words/That touch my heart/I gaze at their
feverish pictures/The secrets that set them apart."
    With _Presto_, Rush makes a stab at greatness that rivals its
one landmark LP, 1981's _Moving Pictures_. This has a lot to do with
Rupert Hine's deft production, which camouflages Geddy Lee's
typically shrill vocals to great advantage. But it's also because
"Red Tide" doesn't imitate the Police, it simply steals the melody
from "Message in a Bottle." Similarly, "Anagram (for Mongo)" doesn't
recall Foreigner, it wisely just pilfers the epic chords from "Long,
Long Way From Home."
    Of course, _Presto_ features lots of classic Rush (the fancy
drum-bass interplay of "Show Don't Tell," the triumphant guitar solo
on "The Pass"), as well as all the foibles -- like overarrangement
-- that make the band's style so unpalatable. Although Rush-bashers
still have plenty to bitch about, _Presto_ is undeniably loose --
evident in ballsy excursions into dance grooves ("Scars") and
virtual folk rock (the title track) -- by the band's standard.
    Most surprisingly, it's not Alex Lifeson's beyond-Steve-Vai
guitar work but Lee's infectious choruses that stand out on
_Presto_. The album's only dog, "War Paint," contains a truly great
sing-along finale: "Boys and girls together/Let's paint the mirror
black." To be sure, ever since "Subdivisions" ("In the high school
halls/In the shopping malls/Conform or be cast out"), Rush has been
the only band that mattered to lone-wolf suburban kids. Lyricist
Neil Peart has typically been too much of a sourpuss to address that
constituency intimately and effectively. Until now.

						-- Bob Mack


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